If the Yellow Pages weren’t already obsolete, companies such as Talklocal are ready to close the book.
The Arlington-based company created a new way for consumers to find plumbers, electricians, dentists, accountants and other professionals-for-hire by submitting their needs online and waiting for qualified providers to respond.
Its business got a boost last week when the company, which until recently was known as SevaCall, received $2.6 million from investors. Co-founder Manpreet Singh said the money will be used to make more customers and vendors aware of the Web site and what it offers.
Talklocal isn’t the only company angling to end the frustration of calling a long list of service providers to find the one that can fulfill a customer’s request at their desired time and price.
Thumbtack, a competing Web site that uses a similar model, raised a whopping $100 million last month from Google’s investment arm.
What’s more, on-demand smartphone apps that allow users to summon help with life’s daily tasks, such as grocery shopping and laundry, are also gaining popularity. Handybook, an app that allows people to find housekeepers and plans to expand into home repair, raised $30 million from District-based venture capital firm Revolution earlier this summer.
But Singh said some on-demand apps have actually become a source of business for Talklocal. Much like local brick-and-mortar stores, those apps are always on the hunt for new customers.
“Some of them have started to become customers of ours,” Singh said. “At the end of the day, they’re vendors themselves. They’re looking to get leads for consumers to use their Web site.”
Talklocal works like this: Customers complete an online form stating the kind of service they need, such as tree removal or furniture upholstery, where the job is located, and what time it needs to be done.
That request is sent to nearby vendors who decide if they’re able to do the job, then call the customer to discuss pricing and other specifics. The customer chooses from among the suitors and Talklocal gets paid for making the connection.
Singh said Talklocal has sent service calls to more than 1 million vendors in 49 states — Alaska is the sole holdout — since the Web site debuted in late 2012.
Participants in the investment round announced last week include Crystal Tech Fund, Fortify Ventures, K Street Capital, Launch Angels’ Where Fund and Privateer Capital, among others. Talklocal previously raised a seed round worth $1.3 million.
The company plans to unveil mobile apps for Apple and Android devices later this year, Singh said, so that customers can verbally record their service requests rather than submit them online.
In an era of diminishing human interaction thanks to e-mail, text messaging and mobile apps, Singh believes that Talklocal’s focus on talk — it’s in the firm’s new name, after all — is actually an advantage.
“A lot of consumers want to talk to vendors before they make a decision of who they work with,” he said. “There are very few services where you’ll be happy with whoever just shows up.”
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